We know that loneliness and inactivity are some of the main problems of the older years. People find that after a lifetime of working and managing busy lives; retirement can seem empty and lonely. The mental and physical health of people, particularly older people, tends to decline in the absence of meaningful social interaction and regular physical activity. A research by Harvard School of Public Health has determined that elders who have an active social life have a slower rate of memory decline. This is in fact one of the reasons why moving to an assisted living home has such a positive impact on the lives of seniors. Where living alone can lead to isolation, feelings of depression and even physical ailments, living in an assisted living community can be enjoyable, meaningful and healthy.
Since the recreational and other activities that an assisted living home organizes for its residents are such an important aspect of assisted living, it is recommended that you meet the assisted living activity director of a facility. This will give you a good sense of how enthusiastic and involved they are in the community and tell you about their level of dedication to helping residents enjoy a fulfilling and meaningful life. How energetic and cheerful the activity director is, will help you gauge how interesting and enjoyable your life will be if you’re planning to move. It also helps make an assessment for a loved one if you’re examining different assisted care options on behalf of a parent or other older person. Here are some of the questions to ask the assisted living activity director:
1. What and when?
Get a general idea of the type and the number of activities held; their frequency and schedules to understand how busy and engaged residents tend to be. Ask to look around to get more of an idea: hobby areas, the presence of musical instruments, the availability of board games or sporting activities such as mini golf etc. The sight of seniors engaged in these activities will tell you a lot. Find out how the activity director plans the activities. Are they oriented towards actively promoting socialization with a view to helping residents feel like a valuable part of the community? Do they just go through the motions of organizing activities or do they seem to put thought into creating activities that are stimulating, challenging and enjoyable?
2. Are the activities varied and diverse?
Look at this from the point of view of your own interests (if you’re planning to move to assisted living) or those of your loved ones (if you’re examining assisted living facilities for a parent). A person is likely to enjoy the same hobbies and pass-times in their later years as they have until now. If one has been used to some sort of physical activity each day, or enjoys playing chess regularly, it is beneficial to be able to continue with these. Ideally, an assisted living facility should offer a range of activities that residents can choose from as per their inclinations and interests rather than everyone being expected to participate in the same activities.
3. What are the physical activities planned?
Some assisted living facilities have a garden or a vegetable plot where residents can grow things and enjoy the hobby of gardening. Getting some sun and fresh air can do wonders for you in the pleasing climate of Tampa. Some homes may have yoga classes or Tai Chi classes which are gentle, low impact exercises that are ideal for older people. If one is used to playing games such as badminton or tennis, it’s worth checking out whether these activities are available or at all possible at the facility you have in mind.
4. What about mental stimulation and engagement?
Mental stimulation and activities that challenge the intellect are vital for keeping the brain healthy and disease free, so find out what sort of activities they have planned. Are there facilities for card games, jigsaw and other puzzles, board games such as Scrabble, Pictionary or trivia-based games? Do they organize chess tournaments? Here again, touring the facility to see how the residents are utilizing their time and what activities they are engaged in, will give you a good idea of what to expect.
5. Do they use resident feedback/suggestions to create new activities?
Some assisted living facilities have a residents’ council that suggests or helps set up new activities that they feel the residents will enjoy. They may suggest changes in activities or schedules as well. Does the facility have such a council? If so, how receptive is the management to such changes and suggestions and how many such suggestions have been implemented? If there is no such council, do they have a mechanism that takes resident wishes and suggestions into account? This is important for residents to feel like valuable members of their community; that their wishes count for something.
Contact the activity director at our lovely assisted living home at (813) 543 – VITA (8482) to get answers to any questions you might have. One’s post retirement years need not be lonely or empty. By choosing the right assisted living community, older people can once again enjoy productive and meaningful activities to live a full and enjoyable life.